There are many Chinese dialects in China. It is hard to guess how
many dialects exist, but they can be roughly classified into one
of the seven large groups, i.e., Putonghua (Mandarin), Gan, Kejia
(Hakka), Min, Wu, Xiang and Yue (Cantonese). Each language group
contains a large number of dialects. These are the Chinese languages
spoken mostly by the Han people, which represent about 92 percent
of the total population.
The dialects from the seven groups are quite different. For example,
a Mandarin speaker in northern China usually understands little
Cantonese, but a non-Mandarin speaker usually can speak some Mandarin
with a strong accent. This is largely because Mandarin has been
the official national language since 1913. Mandarin or Putonghua
is mainly based on the Beijing dialect. Despite the large differences
among Chinese dialects, there is one thing in common for them --
they all share the same writing system based on Chinese characters.